Electronic Frontier Foundation
|Founded||July 6, 1990|
|Founders||Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow, John Gilmore|
|Type||501(c)(3) Nonprofit organization|
|Purpose||Digital rights activism and litigation|
|$13.6 million (2014)|
EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents amicus curiae briefs, defends individuals and new technologies from what it considers abusive legal threats, works to expose government malfeasance, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms and online civil liberties, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use, and solicits a list of what it considers patent abuses with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was formed in July 1990 by John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor in response to a series of actions by law enforcement agencies that led them to conclude that the authorities were gravely uninformed about emerging forms of online communication, and that there was a need for increased protection for Internet civil liberties.
In April 1990, Barlow had been visited by a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in relation to the theft and distribution of the source code for a series of Macintosh ROMs. Barlow described the visit as "complicated by [The Agent's] fairly complete unfamiliarity with computer technology. I realized right away that before I could demonstrate my innocence, I would first have to explain to him what guilt might be." Barlow felt that his experience was symptomatic of a “great paroxysm of governmental confusion during which everyone's liberties would become at risk”.
Barlow posted an account of this experience to The WELL online community and was contacted by Mitch Kapor, who had had a similar experience. The pair agreed that there was a need to defend civil liberties on the Internet. Kapor agreed to fund any legal fees associated with such a defense and the pair contacted New York lawyers Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman about defending several computer hackers from a Harper's magazine forum on computers and freedom who have been the target of Secret Service raids. This generated a large amount of publicity which led to offers of financial support from John Gilmore and Steve Wozniak. Barlow and Kapor continued to research conflicts between the government and technology and in June 1990 Barlow posted online the influential article entitled "Crime & Puzzlement" in which Barlow announced his and Kapor's plans to create an organization to "raise and disburse funds for education, lobbying, and litigation in the areas relating to digital speech and the extension of the Constitution into Cyberspace."
This generated further reaction and support for the ideas of Barlow and Kapor. In late June, Barlow held a series of dinners in San Francisco with major figures in the computer industry to develop a coherent response to these perceived threats. Barlow considered that: "The actions of the FBI and Secret Service were symptoms of a growing social crisis: Future Shock. America was entering the Information Age with neither laws nor metaphors for the appropriate protection and conveyance of information itself." Barlow felt that to confront this a formal organization would be needed; he hired Cathy Cook as press coordinator, and began to set up what would become the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was formally founded on July 10, 1990, by Kapor and Barlow, who very soon after elected Gilmore, Wozniak, and Stewart Brand to join them on the Board of Directors. Initial funding was provided by Kapor, Wozniak, and an anonymous benefactor.
In 1990, Mike Godwin joined the organization as the first staff counsel. Then in 1991 Esther Dyson and Jerry Berman joined the EFF Board. By 1992 Cliff Figallo became the new director of EFF-Cambridge and in December 1992 Jerry Berman became Acting Executive Director.
The creation of the organization was motivated by the massive search and seizure on Steve Jackson Games executed by the United States Secret Service early in 1990. Similar but officially unconnected law-enforcement raids were being conducted across the United States at about that time as part of a state-federal task force called Operation Sundevil. However, the Steve Jackson Games case, which became EFF's first high-profile case, was the major rallying point where EFF began promoting computer and Internet-related civil liberties. In 1993, their offices moved to 1001 G Street in Washington, D.C. That same year Big Dummy's guide to the Internet, an Electronic Frontier Foundation publication, was made available for free download.
EFF's second big case was Bernstein v. United States led by Cindy Cohn, where programmer and professor Daniel J. Bernstein sued the government for permission to publish his encryption software, Snuffle, and a paper describing it. More recently the organization has been involved in defending Edward Felten, Jon Lech Johansen and Dmitry Sklyarov.
Expansion and development
The organization was originally located at Mitch Kapor's Kapor Enterprises, Inc offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts. By the fall of 1993, the main EFF offices were housed in Washington, D.C., headed up by Jerry Berman. During this time, some of EFF's attention focused on the business of influencing national policy, a business that was not entirely palatable to parts of the organization. In 1994, Mr. Berman parted ways with EFF and formed the Center for Democracy and Technology. EFF moved offices across town, where Drew Taubman briefly took the reins as director.
In 1995, under the auspices of director Lori Fena, after some downsizing and in an effort to regroup and refocus on their base support, the organization moved offices to San Francisco, California. There, it took up temporary residence at John Gilmore's Toad Hall, and soon afterward moved into the Hamm's building at 1550 Bryant St. After Fena moved onto the EFF board of directors for a while, the organization was led by Tara Lemmey. Just prior to the EFF's move into its offices at 454 Shotwell St. in SF's Mission District, long-time EFF Legal Director Shari Steele became the Executive Director.
On April 1, 2015, Shari Steele stepped down as Executive Director.  Long time Legal Director Cindy Cohn became the new Executive Director, Corynne McSherry became the Legal Director and Kurt Opsahl became the General Counsel.
By the mid-90s the EFF was becoming seriously concerned about the refusal of the US Government to license any secure encryption product for export unless it utilized key recovery and claims that governments could not decrypt information when protected by DES, continuing even after the public breaking of the code in the first of the DES Challenges. They coordinated and supported the construction of the EFF DES cracker, using special purpose hardware and software and costing only $210,000. This brought the record for breaking a message down to 56 hours on 17 July 1998 and to under 24 hours on 19 Jan 1999 (in conjunction with distributed.net).
The EFF regularly brings and defends lawsuits at all levels of the US legal system in pursuit of its goals and objectives. Many of the most significant technology law cases have involved the EFF, including MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., Apple v. Does, and others.
The EFF organizes two sets of awards to promote work in accordance with its goals and objectives:
The EFF Pioneer Awards are awarded annually to recognize individuals who in its opinion are "leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier." In 2009, the honorees were Limor Fried, Harri Hursti, and Carl Malamud.
The EFF Cooperative Computing Awards are a series of four awards meant "to encourage ordinary Internet users to contribute to solving huge scientific problems," to be awarded to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with a significant record number of decimal digits. The awards are funded by an anonymous donor. The awards are:
- $50,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 1,000,000 decimal digits – Awarded April 6, 2000
- $100,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 10,000,000 decimal digits – Awarded October 14, 2009
- $150,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 100,000,000 decimal digits
- $250,000 to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 1,000,000,000 decimal digits.
EFF publishes through several outlets such as the periodical, EFFector (ISSN 1062-9424), as well as its websites, blogs, and on social networking services.
On February 18, 2004, the EFF announced that it had received $1.2 million from the estate of Leonard Zubkoff. It used $1 million of this money to establish the EFF Endowment Fund for Digital Civil Liberties.
In April 2011, George Hotz donated $10,000, the remainder of his legal defense money in his case against Sony.
The agitprop art group Psychological Industries has independently issued buttons with pop culture tropes such as the logo of the Laughing Man from the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (with the original The Catcher in the Rye quotation replaced with the slogan of Anonymous), a bleeding roller derby jammer, and the "We Can Do It!" woman (often misidentified as Rosie the Riveter) on a series of buttons on behalf of the EFF.
In 2011, the EFF received $1 million from Google as part of a settlement of a class action related to privacy issues involving Google Buzz. EPIC and seven other privacy-focused nonprofits protested that the plaintiffs lawyers and Google had, in effect, arranged to give the majority of those funds "to organizations that are currently paid by Google to lobby for or to consult for the company." An additional $1 million was obtained from Facebook in a similar settlement.
In late June 2014 the EFF flew a GEFA-FLUG AS 105 GD/4 blimp owned by, and in conjunction with, Greenpeace over the NSA's Bluffdale Utah Data Center in protest against its purported illegal spying.
On February 26, 2015 it was announced on Reddit's blog that the EFF had won first place in the "Reddit Donate" campaign. A total of $82,765.95 was donated, or 10% of the total donation from the 10 top voted charities on Reddit.
The EFF is mentioned in many novels that deal with cryptography or digital rights issues, including Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (1998; released the same year the EFF DES cracker was built) and the works of Cory Doctorow (who is a former EFF regional director for Europe).
- Clipper chip
- Digital rights
- European Digital Rights (EDRi)
- Electronic Frontier Canada
- Electronic Frontiers Australia
- Freedom of the Press Foundation
- Hardware restrictions
- Information freedom
- Internet censorship
- League for Programming Freedom
- Open Rights Group, (UK-based)
- Protection of Broadcasts and Broadcasting Organizations Treaty
- Reporters Without Borders
- "A history of protecting freedom where law and technology collide". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
- "Board of directors". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
- "Cindy Cohn to become EFF's new executive director in 2015". Electronic Frontier Foundation. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
- "IRS Form 990". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
- Jones 2003, p. 172
- Barlow, John. "A Not Terribly Brief History of the Electronic Frontier Foundation". Retrieved 2015-12-28.
- "Formation documents and mission statement for the EFF". Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- Lebkowsky, Jon (1997-01-11). "TechnoPolitics". Archived from the original on 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- McCullagh, Declan (2006-04-27). "EFF reaches out to D.C. with new office". CNET News.com. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "The New EFF HQ". Eff.org. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "The Eddy Street Era Begins". Eff.org. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "Shari Steele: A Legacy of Digital Rights". Eff.org. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- "EFF DES CRACKER MACHINE BRINGS HONESTY TO CRYPTO DEBATE". 1998-07-17. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "DES Cracker" Machine". 1998-07-16. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (1998). Cracking DES - Secrets of Encryption Research, Wiretap Politics & Chip Design. O'Reilly Media. ISBN 978-1-56592-520-5.
- "EFF Pioneer Awards". Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "EFF Cooperative Computing Awards". Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- Bishop, Katina (2000-04-06). "Big Prime Nets Big Prize: EFF Gives $50,000 to Finder of Largest Known Prime Number". eff.org. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- Knoll, Landon (2009-10-14). "Record 12-Million-Digit Prime Number Nets $100,000 Prize". eff.org. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "EFFector". Eff.org. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
- cryptopartymelb. YouTube. Retrieved on 2013-07-17. Archived February 15, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- "Internet Pioneer Gives Over $1.2 Million to EFF to Defend Online Freedom". Eff.org. 2004-02-18. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "Home". One Million Buttons for Digital Freedom project. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "Charity Navigator Rating - Electronic Frontier Foundation". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "The Humble Indie Bundle: Epic Win for Creators, Customers, and Digital Civil Liberties". EFF's Richard Esguerra. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
- Parloff, Roger (2012-07-30). "Google and Facebook's new tactic in the tech wars". Fortune. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- Mitroff, Sarah (2012-12-20). "Mark Cuban’s ‘Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents’ Just Got Filled". Wired. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "Protesters Launch a 135-Foot Blimp Over the NSA's Utah Data Center - Slashdot". Yro.slashdot.org. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- "Protestors Launch a 135-Foot Blimp Over the NSA's Utah Data Center - WIRED". WIRED. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
- Gelman, Robert B.; Stanton McCandlish (1998). Protecting Yourself Online: The Definitive Resource on Safety, Freedom & Privacy in Cyberspace. New York: HarperEdge. ISBN 0-06-251512-8.
- Godwin, Mike (2003). Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-57168-4.
- Goldsmith, Jack (2006). Who Controls the Internet?. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515266-2.
- Jones, Steve (2003). Encyclopedia of New Media. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-2382-9.
- Sterling, Bruce (1993). The Hacker Crackdown: Law And Disorder On The Electronic Frontier. London: Bantam. ISBN 0-553-56370-X.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Electronic Frontier Foundation.|
- Official website
- Works by Electronic Frontier Foundation at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Electronic Frontier Foundation at Internet Archive
- "How To Bypass Internet Censorship". also known by the titles: "Bypassing Internet Censorship or Circumvention Tools". flossmanuals.net. 2011-03-10. p. 240 pp.